For nearly 20 years, film and television composer Claude Foisy has written scores for a variety of projects. Some of his highlights include music for Pontypool, (starring Stephen McHattie), White Noise (starring Michael Keaton), and his TV credits include CW’s Beauty and the Beast, The 4400 and some of the Outer Limits TV show episodes to name just a few. Though he has a long history with the Wrong Turn films – Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort was released earlier this month – Foisy is a well-versed and accomplished musician.
Enjoy our session with Claude.
GoSeeTalk: Depending on who you speak with, horror films have unfortunately sort of de-evolved somewhat into mindless slashers. Regardless of your stance, do you see merit in treating the genre with sophistication? What kind of rules do you operate within?
Claude Foisy: A composer never gets a chance to explain there was no money for post-production or no time to write an elaborate score. All a composer can do is put his/her best effort forward because at the end of the day, it’s your name on the end credits.
Wrong Turn, like Final Destination and even the true horror classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street have become a series with staying power- how do you approach these successive films? Is there a through line or is the title the only thing these movies have in common?
I can’t speak for Final Destination but for Wrong Turn, each movie was scored as a separate entity. The settings change for each story which makes for a slightly different approach each time. Although there are similar elements to each sequel, writing a new score not only makes for a better film, but makes it that much more fun for me as the composer.
Halloween is fast approaching, so one of my horror/thriller standbys in White Noise…I’m a huge Michael Keaton fan. But even if I wasn’t, I still think it’s an interesting concept and an inventive thriller. What were some of the experiences you had working on that?
Well, the first one that comes to mind is after long meetings with the director, I was convinced I understood exactly the direction and tone he wanted for the music. We had discussed this for a number of hours so I had a good handle on what I thought would work. After turning in the Main Title, the director and executive producer called me to say that I was about 180 degrees from where they wanted to be.
I was very upset and nervous because that had not been a typical reaction to my first drafts. I rushed over to my studio and wrote in panic mode as you can imagine. Two days later I got the call that both the director and producer were in love with my new Main Theme. Big weight off my shoulders for sure.
“Scary movies” are a type of film and as a musician you have to be able to walk the line of whatever the film needs. But where does your professional line stop and your personal line start? Or, simpler, what do you like listening to when you’re not working?
Truly, I listen to anything and everything. I love classical music and jazz. I studied both and received a performance degree in both. Film music, for me, is such a great art form because so many different styles can accompany a film. Given two of the more recent Oscar winners for music, Gravity and Social Network pretty much underscores (no pun intended) that idea.
You’ve written music for the last four Wrong Turn sequels. How do those films push or challenge you?
My experience has been that usually a director or producer pushes me more than the actual film. For the Wrong Turn sequels, director Declan O’Brien was instrumental in helping me find the distinctive sounds for the three sequels I did for him. In Wrong Turn 6, I used instruments indigenous to the Appalachian setting. Family relations were the main element of this sequel and Appalachian music is strongly rooted in family traditions hence my interest.
What are some of the most enjoyable times you’ve had scoring either films or TV? Also, what kind of star struck experiences have you had in the last 20 years?
I really believe every scoring project has been fun because I choose to make it so. What I mean by that is for me, there’s no feeling quite like finally getting the film’s tone just right. That’s when I get excited about writing because I know that the score is making this film just a little bit better than it was. As far as star encounters, my first scoring job was a TV movie for the Hart to Hart franchise. Robert Wagner was executive producer and star, of course, so he was the person hiring me. Having grown up watching the series and knowing of his career in Hollywood, it was a true pleasure working with him. A real gentleman. He also hired me for the next 2 films in the series.
Pontypool is one of the most memorable horror/thrillers I’ve seen in the last 10 years. It feels like a John Carpenter film but then becomes its own film. It’s a very effective one room thriller and I just love it. What element(s) did you base your score on?
The brilliant zombie film Pontypool was a tough one. I had difficulty finding the film’s voice until I noticed how people were infected. The symptoms were repetition of certain infected words in the English language that made the victim repeat these words uncontrollably.
That sparked my concept of repetitive motifs for the score. A sort of minimalist Phillip Glass type score.
It may be different for each project but how do you approach music for scary scenes? Do you build up to the event and then ramp it up quickly, do you create a pulsing and overbearing theme that plays the whole time, or do you like to let the sound effects and lack of music carry the effect of the scene?
Usually, the picture and tone will usually dictate how to use each approach. But all these approaches are used. Each film really plays by its own set of rules.
You’re resume is quite varied. Do you prefer working on films, or television? What do you like and dislike about both?
I love both of course. TV because it’s fast paced and you need to write a lot of music quickly, so the reaction and feedback is quick. Film because you have the time to explore a bunch of ideas before settling on your first choice anyways!
Regardless of the music, what are some our your favorite flicks? Do you have any guilty pleasure films?
My favorite movies are all usually about the story. In romantic comedy, Groundhog Day is a favorite. Quebec has produced some great dramas such as “Barbarians Invasions”. I seem to like most of the Jason Statham action movies especially the Transporter series. And I really like big biographical epics like Lincoln.
I’m trying to get a feature produced on the life of Franz Liszt, the first international rock star. Can you imagine turning down PT Barnum’s half million dollars for a few concerts in the mid-19th century?!? That’s my kind of story. Anyone interested in producing?
Thanks to Claude for his time. Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort was released on October 13th, 2014.